TEN THINGS EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT RACE
Our eyes tell us that people look different. No
one has trouble distinguishing a Czech from a Chinese. But what
do those differences mean? Are they biological? Has race always
been with us? How does race affect people today?
There's less - and more - to race than meets
1. Race is a modern idea. Ancient societies,
like the Greeks, did not divide people according to physical
distinctions, but according to religion, status, class, even
language. The English language didn't even have the word 'race'
until it turns up in 1508 in a poem by William Dunbar referring
to a line of kings.
2. Race has no genetic basis. Not one characteristic,
trait or even gene distinguishes all the members of one so-called
race from all the members of another so-called race.
3. Human subspecies don't exist. Unlike
many animals, modern humans simply haven't been around long
enough or isolated enough to evolve into separate subspecies
or races. Despite surface appearances, we are one of the most
similar of all species.
4. Skin color really is only skin deep.
Most traits are inherited independently from one another. The
genes influencing skin color have nothing to do with the genes
influencing hair form, eye shape, blood type, musical talent,
athletic ability or forms of intelligence. Knowing someone's
skin color doesn't necessarily tell you anything else about
him or her.
5. Most variation is within, not between, "races."
Of the small amount of total human variation, 85% exists within
any local population, be they Italians, Kurds, Koreans or Cherokees.
About 94% can be found within any continent. That means two
random Koreans may be as genetically different as a Korean and
6. Slavery predates race. Throughout much
of human history, societies have enslaved others, often as a
result of conquest or war, even debt, but not because of physical
characteristics or a belief in natural inferiority. Due to a
unique set of historical circumstances, ours was the first slave
system where all the slaves shared similar physical characteristics.
7. Race and freedom evolved together. The
U.S. was founded on the radical new principle that "All men
are created equal." But our early economy was based largely
on slavery. How could this anomaly be rationalized? The new
idea of race helped explain why some people could be denied
the rights and freedoms that others took for granted.
8. Race justified social inequalities as natural.
As the race idea evolved, white superiority became "common sense"
in America. It justified not only slavery but also the extermination
of Indians, exclusion of Asian immigrants, and the taking of
Mexican lands by a nation that professed a belief in democracy.
Racial practices were institutionalized within American government,
laws, and society.
9. Race isn't biological, but racism is still
real. Race is a powerful social idea that gives people different
access to opportunities and resources. Our government and social
institutions have created advantages that disproportionately
channel wealth, power, and resources to white people. This affects
everyone, whether we are aware of it or not.
10. Colorblindness will not end racism.
Pretending race doesn't exist is not the same as creating equality.
Race is more than stereotypes and individual prejudice. To combat
racism, we need to identify and remedy social policies and institutional
practices that advantage some groups at the expense of others.
RACE - The Power of an Illusion was produced
by California Newsreel in association with the Independent Television
Service (ITVS). Major funding provided by the Ford Foundation
and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Diversity Fund.